U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs

Partnerships with Communities Help Law Enforcement Fight Crime

Regina B. Schofield, August 2007

It is widely recognized that jurisdictions in which law enforcement agencies actively engage their citizens and community organizations are better equipped to tackle the problems of crime and delinquency. Local law enforcement depends, in large part, on the cooperation of citizens who care deeply about the well-being of their community and its members. The Office of Justice Programs is working to promote this collaboration by helping to develop and strengthen law enforcement and community partnerships.

Through the Community Capacity Development Office (CCDO) and its Weed and Seed program, we continue to support communities in their efforts to “weed” out criminals involved in violent crime and drug abuse and “seed” the neighborhood with human services aimed at revitalizing the community. Led by our U.S. Attorneys, Weed and Seed programs are steered by committees composed of criminal justice and human services agencies, faith-based and community organizations, civic leaders, local businesses, and citizens themselves. By fusing the law enforcement mission with community goals, these programs have been responsible for reducing crime and improving the quality of life for citizens in communities across the nation. More recently, local Weed and Seed programs have joined with Project Safe Neighborhoods, an Administration initiative led by the Justice Department to root out gun and gang crime.

Law enforcement and community partnerships also have been vital to our efforts to serve at-risk youth. We have enjoyed very productive relationships with organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Police Athletic League (PAL), which have provided countless young people healthy alternatives to truancy, drugs, and crime. For example, the Boys and Girls Club of South Alabama has worked with the police department to create a three-week “Kids and Cops” summer camp, and the Alaskan Kenai Peninsula Boys and Girls Clubs put on a similar program with U.S. Coast Guard volunteers. We also recently awarded funding to establish a new PAL chapter in New Orleans and to rebuild that city’s Boys and Girls Clubs programs, which were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Broader community surveillance initiatives also contribute to safer neighborhoods. Neighborhood Watch, through its USAOnWatch program, unites law enforcement, private organizations, and citizens in an effort to reduce residential crime and guard against terrorist threats. Volunteers in Police Services (VIPS), a program of President Bush’s USA Freedom Corps initiative, recruits and trains volunteers to aid law enforcement in their crime prevention efforts. More than 1,500 VIPS programs using more than 100,000 volunteers are now in operation throughout the nation.

These and many other efforts will be featured at the annual CCDO National Conference, which will take place in Detroit from August 20 to August 23.

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